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‘Brain on fire,’ ear numbness, hallucinations: Just what are the symptoms of ‘Long COVID’?

0 2 years ago

More than two years into the pandemic, scientists have yet to come to a consensus.

It seems like most any ailment—from the expected, like fatigue, dry cough, and shortness of breath—to the obscure, like ear numbness, a sensation of “brain on fire,” and hallucinations—could be symptoms, according to a landmark July study published in British medical journal The Lancet.

In fact, the study identified more than 200 potential Long COVID symptoms in 10 organ systems, with 66 symptoms typically lasting over seven months. Researchers surveyed nearly 4,000 sufferers with confirmed or suspected COVID from nearly 60 countries, with illness of a month or longer.

Now, a new study out of Italy, published earlier this month, found that symptoms of Long COVID may vary based on the variant. When researchers examined the records of nearly 450 patients, they found that those infected with the Alpha variant, the first identified COVID variant of concern, were more likely to experience muscle aches, insomnia, brain fog, and anxiety or depression when compared to patients with the initial strain of COVID—and less likely to experience the stereotypical loss of taste or smell.

Victims of childhood trauma are more likely to develop Long COVID, according to a not-yet-peer-reviewed study published in February to preprint server medRxiv—likely due, researchers say, to altered immune response.

The World Health Organization defines Long COVID as a condition that occurs in someone who had COVID, with symptoms that cannot be explained by another diagnosis, that last for two months or more. The symptoms can persist following the initial onset, or come and go over time, the organization says, adding that a diagnosis of Long COVID usually wouldn’t be made until three months after acute illness.


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